Struggling parents claim they are cutting back on food and household bills to meet the costs of going back to school.
Children’s charity Barnardos revealed mothers and fathers were frustrated at high prices, with some forking out €770 for a child’s first year of secondary school.
And hard-pressed parents could have to spend up to €620 per child ever year after that, according the National Consumer Agency (NCA).
Fergus Finlay, chief executive at Barnardos, said parents were worried about how they were going to make sure their children had what they needed to get an education.
“Many parents are being forced to make very difficult choices and many are getting into debt to pay for uniforms, books and other education expenses,” he said.
“Concrete solutions for tackling the costs associated with sending children to school are long overdue.”
One parent told the charity: “We cut back on food and let other bills go unpaid to ensure children have what they need for school.
“We’re living on the edge all the time.
“So much for free education.”
Elsewhere, research for the NCA found parents expected to pay €487 per primary school child this September, and €620 each for secondary school.
Nearly six out of 10 would use their regular income to pay for school expenses, and 78% were more concerned about costs than last year, Ann Fitzgerald said.
Some 15% of the 1,000 parents quizzed would dip into their savings, and 5% would be forced to pay with a credit card or overdraft money.
“Based on our research, a family of four, with one primary and one secondary level child, could have to pay up to €1,100, on average, just to send their children back to school this year,” Ms Fitzgerald added.
“Spending this amount of money on back-to-school costs is a significant financial pressure for most parents, especially those who may be already struggling financially.”
Meanwhile, almost 1,000 adults took part in the Barnardos school costs survey, which found:
:: An average €355 was spent per child in senior infants; €390 by fourth class, and €770 going into first year in secondary school.
:: In primary school, 23% spent up to €100 on books, while a sixth forked out up to €125 for uniforms.
:: For secondary school, 17% were paying up to €174.
:: Some 15% of teenagers’ parents paid more than €250 for uniforms and 37% spent more than that for books.
Mr Finlay welcomed a Code of Practice agreed between educational publishers not to release new editions last year, but he warned parents were not yet seeing its impact.
While 384,000 children received back to school allowances last year for clothing and footwear, he called on Government to consider free school book systems.
“Cuts to school budgets are reducing direct supports to children and mean that schools are increasingly relying on parents to make up the shortfall for day to day costs,” he added.
“We are jeopardising children’s futures with short-term cuts that fail to create equal opportunities for all children to get the education that is their right.”